Guide to minerals for your child

Most of us have some idea about the vitamins our children need, but what about those equally important minerals? Here’s our guide to what your child needs

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What are minerals?

Like vitamins, minerals are essential micronutrients that your body needs in small amounts to work properly. They help to build strong bones and teeth, control body fluids inside and outside cells and turn food into energy.

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Minerals are found in foods such as meat, cereals (including bread), fish, milk and dairy foods, vegetables, fruit (especially dried fruit) and nuts. So which essential minerals does your child need, and what should you feed her to make sure she’s getting the right supply?

Calcium

Helps to build strong bones and teeth, regulates muscle contraction, including the heartbeat, and makes sure the blood clots normally.

Good food sources
Milk, cheese and dairy foods, green leafy vegetables, soya beans, tofu, nuts and bread. Your baby needs around a pint (600ml) of milk or equivalent dairy products a day before 12 months, and around 12oz (350ml) a day from one to five years.

Iron

Helps make red blood cells which carry oxygen around her body. A lack of iron can lead to anaemia, where your child becomes tired, pale and listless.

Good food sources
Meat, beans, nuts, dried fruit such as apricots, whole grains, breakfast cereals and dark green leafy vegetables (but not spinach).

Magnesium

Helps to turn food into energy and make the parathyroid glands – the glands that produce hormones necessary for bone health – work normally.

Good food sources
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and kale, nuts, bread, fish, meat and dairy foods.

Phosphorus

Helps to build strong bones and teeth and release energy from food.

Good food sources
Red meat, dairy foods, fish, poultry, bread, rice and oats.

Potassium

Helps to control the balance of fluids in the body. It may also help to regulate blood pressure.

Good food sources
Fruit (especially bananas), vegetables, meat, fish, pulses, nuts and seeds, milk and bread.

Sodium chloride (salt)

Helps keep the levels of fluids in the body balanced. Chloride also helps the body to digest food.

Good food sources
Found in all foods, but at high levels in processed foods such as ready meals, bacon, some breakfast cereals, cheese, bread and savoury snacks. Babies under 12 months should have less than 1g of salt per day, and children under five should have less than 2g. Your child will naturally get this amount through eating foods like bread, cheese and ham, so don’t add salt to food or cooking.

Sulphur

Plays a role in many different body processes, including helping to make tissues such as cartilage.

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Good food sources
Found in many different forms in all foods, and also used as a preservative in processed foods such as baked beans.

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